Roadside survey teams in WA offer drivers cash for drug tests



Drivers in the state of Washington may have had a strange encounter while stopped at a red light this past weekend. We’ve all probably had the less fortunate approach our idling vehicle and peddle for loose change, or have a guy try to sell a newspaper, or start washing the windshield while we wait. But when is the last time that someone bum-rushed your ride offering to give you $60 to take a brief “survey”?
That is precisely what happened beginning last Friday in Spokane and Yakima counties, and continued throughout the weekend. Government-funded orange-vested survey teams were tasked with bribing Washington motorists to hand over voluntary roadside breath, saliva, and blood samples, in exchange for the prospect of easy money.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission has teamed up with national authorities to study the allegedly anonymous results of the various rounds of surveys, in order to form a baseline level of presumed average impairment for the state’s drivers.
Kitsap, Whatcom, Snohomish, and King Counties are slated to undergo the same roadside surveying beginning later this month.
Authorities will then re-administer the surveys across all counties in 2015, once the state’s recreational marijuana laws have had a chance to firmly take root. The results of the two separate rounds of surveying will, in theory, provide data concerning the impact of legal weed on the state’s drivers and roadways.
With teams posted up at five locations per county, hoping to convince 150 drivers per location to participate in the survey, costs add up quickly at $60 per head. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been behind these studies since the early 1970’s, and has vowed to pick up the $250,000 price tag on this latest experiment in Washington.
The surveys are meant to be set up in a manner that does not force drivers to participate, and is not supposed to slow, or block, traffic in any way. All samples are said to be anonymous, and are allegedly destroyed after testing.
Authorities claim that no names or license plate numbers will ever be recorded, but the same surveying system has been implemented in 30 states in the past, and in more than one case, a heavy police presence deterred some drivers from participating, while guilt-tripping others into doing so who may not have voluntarily.
The suits behind the study do acknowledge that uniformed police officers were being assigned to the survey sites, but only to serve as protection for the survey teams who sometimes find themselves working late night hours in questionable neighborhoods.
Spokeswoman of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Jonna VanDyk, explains that before any physical samples are taken from the driver, an alcohol-sensing device samples the air inside the vehicle and allegedly flags drivers who may have had too much to drink.
How this device can tell the difference between beer burps from the front or back seat has yet to be properly explained, but VanDyk says that if it alerts the survey team, they are then instructed to calmly try to convince the driver to let someone else drive.
If they are driving alone, or nobody else in the car is able to take the wheel, then those fully armed, badged up guardian angels come over and “explain the same options”. Whatever that means.
Even if you are stone sober and just interested in some quick cash, the survey is said to take up to 20 minutes, and will detect up to 75 different substances in the driver’s samples, including over-the-counter medications. Our advice: tell them to go fuck themselves. When did cops ever do you any favors?
Washington, like many states, has not figured out a fair, and scientifically accurate, way of judging a driver’s impairment due to marijuana use. They do, however, take the issue of roadway safety very seriously.
Through their “Target Zero” program, the state aims to literally have zero traffic-related deaths, or even serious injuries, by 2030. In 2012, 444 people died on Washington’s roadways. While that may seem like a lot of work to get it down to zero, they have already cut the number in half since 1990.
Odds are, the legalization of medical marijuana will only help their cause.